Single length irons have been around for a lot longer than people think , but they have really only been the radar of the average golfer for a few years, essentially since Bryson Dechambeau has become one of the higher-profile golfers on the planet.
Which Single Length Set?
As someone who has used several sets of one length clubs and started trying them out a good couple of years before Mr Dechambeau (although slightly less-successfully!) I feel like I have a good take on all things one length. One of the most obvious questions for many people who are thinking of giving them a try is simply “which set do I get?” The definitive answer to that is probably impossible, but here are a few things to think about that might help point you in the right direction.
This isn’t going to be a “why single length?” article (although I should probably do another one of those soon judging by the questions I see,) but I feel like I should start by saying that I really don’t like a lot of the stuff I read about playing with clubs that are all the same length. The main reason is that most of it is written by golfers who really haven’t tried them or a best, hit a test club a few times on the range.
Single length is a bit different. I don’t believe it is a perfect fit for everyone, but I do think it has some distinct advantages. Once more, it will take another article to talk through some of those, and I promise I will get down to that soon!
It can certainly free up some mental energy on the course which is great if you are like me and struggling on the greens for example as you can see with my journey through the yips here.
So let’s start with the premise that you have decided to turn to the darkside and give them a try. As you start to dig a little bit, you will realise that there are actually quite a few different options out there. I entitled this article pinhawk vs cobra because these two represent different points on the buying scale, but I will run through a few more options that you might want to consider.
Any Set is Better than None!
First things first: a lot of people who want to try these will never actually get round to it because they won’t be able to pick a set, or will read somewhere that single length is the worst possible thing for your game if you don’t go through a professional fitting which looks at every detail of the specs. and if any of these details are slightly off, you just won’t be able to hit he ball! This is one of the things that really annoy me (and I believe in the benefits of fitting) because it implies that a set is either perfectly fit or a disaster.
At a guess, 99% of golfers are playing off the rack clubs that almost certainly wouldn’t be perfect for them. Hopefully most of them are enjoying the game, hitting some decent shots and scoring fine. As an example, I currently have px 6.5 shafts in my iron. While this might have been good a few years ago, it would probably be a bit stout for me now if I went through a fitting. However, I really love these irons (a classic, the mizuno mp64s) and a friend was getting rid of a set before moving house. How could I possibly say no? and modesty aside, I did manage a 4 under par in a scramble with them yesterday, so it really isn’t stopping me playing 🙂
So the first piece of advice I would give is this:
Whatever set you pick, just choose something that is going to be about the right ballpark specs for you.
As an example, my gangly 6ft 6/1m98 frame is a bit different to most. While I can happily play with standard clubs, I am generally going to be a bit better with something overlength. And although I am no long drive champion, my long levers do mean that I perhaps generate a little bit more clubhead speed than the average hacker (making me a hacker who hits it even further into the trees!)
So if I pick a set of underlength single length irons with lightweight ladies flex graphite, whether from Cobra, or whomever, my results probably aren’t going to be great. Does this mean single length doesn’t work? Obviously not, it just means that I am an idiot!
Getting the Right Specs
So pick something that is going to be about right. Tall? Go a little overlength (maybe 37.5 instead of 37 for a set that are all at “standard (that’s another debate) seven iron length. Getting on a bit and struggling to get the ball out there? Go lighter steel or graphite. If you know what you play now in terms of specs, and are relatively comfortable with it, just get a set that corresponds to your seven iron. It might not be perfect, but it is at least something you are used to and probably won’t be a million miles away from good.
So that brings us to the next big question and ultimately, the choice of set. This is obviously price. Golf is a funny sport because you don’t always get what you pay for and more expensive might not be better, either in terms of quality or for your game. However, cheap and cheerful doesn’t always mean good enough either.
If budget really isn’t an issue for you, firstly I hate you and secondly, you can probably get whatever you want because if it doesn’t work out, you can just get another set! Of course, this is a very time-consuming hit-or-miss approach so even here we can probably narrow things down. If you are in this situation, or at least a situation where you aren’t trying to get something as cheaply as possible, I think Cobra is actually a pretty solid option. I have played quite a bit with Cobra single length irons (particularly the forged one) and I think they are pretty good. Not better than everything else, but pretty good. The prices on some of the sets are also fairly friendly in a market of iron prices heading ever-upwards.
Is Cobra the Best Choice?
However, the main reason I would probably recommend Cobra as a starting point is their availability. you will find them online, in golf superstores, in on-course shops… This means you can see them, get then in hand, hit shots with them and then buy. You can also find plenty of sets out there in the second hand market.
The added bonus here is resale value, particularly now. a friend of mine has just sold two sets of single length irons (he has just discovered a passion for Mizuno blades!) and hasn’t lost anything on what he put into the sets a couple of years ago.
As to which cobra set to get, I don’t think it matters greatly. If you are a decent ballstriker, I found the forged One to be a very nice looking club, but even the more game improvement versions, from f8 etc to speedzone or radspeed, are all solid clubs. Given that you get the usual custom fit options (shaft/grip/etc) this is certainly a fine option.
But is the only one or even the best? If you are on a tighter budget, probably not. A year or to ago, looking at the used market would probably have been a wise move. since COVID and confinement, used club prices have shot up and finding a bargain, particularly on used single length cobras, is something of a long shot.
So where do you turn if you want to dip your feet in the single length market but don’t want to spend a fortune? well, you probably do something similar to what I did 7 or 8 years ago when i tried my first single length set. At the time, Cobra weren’t making single length sets and the options weren’t that easy to see. I weren’t for a set of pinhawks from valuegolf. I honestly can’t remember how much it cost me at the time, but it was comfortably under half what Cobra set costs today.
Pinhawk irons are what is known as component clubs. a lot is written about these and much of it is quite ignorant. For example, people will say that components are copies of the big OEMs. There are some component companies out there that do exactly this. They will create something that is very similar to one of the latest OEM irons, possibly even down to the name. I am not a fan of these sorts of clubs myself, but there is often not a huge difference in terms of quality between the original and the imitator. This is not the same thing as a counterfeit club. This isn’t the Scotty Cameron off Wish for 10% of the price. It is a different club, albeit heavily inspired by a more-famous one.
Something like the pinhawk from Value Golf is different. It is an original design, not based on anything else. It will have similar tech to the big manufacturers, but you won’t see anyone plying it on tour. They don’t have advertising or sponsoring budgets. This leads to some big differences. Firstly, the cost will be far lower than a set of Cobra’s. Secondly, the resale value of the clubs will drop drastically if that is a factor in your choice.
One of the things that I do like about component clubs (if you buy them from a quality dealer) is that the build quality is good, the shaft/grip choices bigger and the possibilities for doing some or all of the work yourself exist.
The build quality remark might surprise you. You might assume that one of the most famous manufacturers will automatically have a better quality of product, but this isn’t really the case. Whether the clubhead is from Valuegolf, Cobra or Taylormade, they are coming out of the same few factories, generally in China. Likewise for the shafts and grips.
However, the clubs from a quality component maker are being put together in much smaller numbers, often by guys who are clubbuilders. If you check the specs on a build from Valuegolf (or similar) and say the latest Taylormade set, you might be surprised at which set is closest to the listed specs 😉
There is another downside, however, and it is for the same reason that I think a Cobra set is often a good idea: availability. It isn’t easy to find these irons, and it is next to impossible to actually see a set in hand before buying.
So where does that leave the potential single-length player on a budget? Well, surprisingly, actually not too badly off. As mentioned earlier, there really are a lot of sets out there now. You can even find them on Amazon. whilst I haven’t played many of these and can’ vouch for quality etc, I am absolutely sure that buying a set and playing it for a couple of months will help you to decide if single length really is for you and then to look at maybe a higher-quality option.
What Would I Pick?
As I write this article, i find myself thinking what I would do when (inevitably) I get another set of single length irons. Whilst I liked the forged Cobras, I didn’t love them. I did like both sets of Pinhawks and played with them a lot. However, I did still sell them and the fact that prices on them have certainly increased as well as the relative difficulty in getting a set means that I probably wouldn’t get another, at least not right now.
So what would i get? Well, my first choice would be to go through a fitting for a set of Edel irons. I have never tried them, but everything I have heard, both about their fitting process and the set itself, tells me that I would probably enjoy them. However, they do come at a cost and finding an Edel fitter nearby is, for me, currently impossible. I could turn to one of the other component companies, but I feel like I wouldn’t be getting anything different to the pinhawks, and in all honesty, I would be looking for something slightly different if I were to go single-length again.
Wishon EQ1: The Perfect Compromise?
Which all leads me to Wishon. I did have one of the original Wishon Sterling single length irons in my bag for a while (the 5 iron which was a nice driving iron for tight, short holes.) Wishon is currently on their second generation of single length clubs with the Wishon EQ1-nx. So what makes them different?
Although Tom Wishon is, I believe, no longer directly leading the company, I think that he is a smart guy who put a huge amount of thought into the first Sterling irons. The weren’t simply an attempt to join on the band wagon, but a really effort to design the best set possible that actually worked for the majority of golfers. I have a friend who tells me that they changed his game and he has recently passed from the Sterlings to the EQ1s, and he loves them.
For example, one of the common complaints about single length irons is that it is difficult to get enough elevation and distance out of a shorter “long” iron. tom overcame this by giving the longer irons a higher COR, basically a sort of spring face like a hybrid or wood. If you have ever hit the Strling long irons, you will immediately have noticed the ping noise and springy feel they generate.
The other thing I like is that they hold their value relatively well, I think perhaps because of Tom’s great reputation. They are also a price point which makes them cheaper than some of the current sets of irons from big manufacturers with a quality this is, in my opinion, very high indeed. and finally, I can’t count the number of times that I have posted question about his clubs on his sort or a forum and Tom himself has answered with a clear, intelligent and useful response.
So there you have it. Perhaps not a simple, single answer but if i did just do this, i would be doing you a disservice. The bottom line is that it is probably worth picking an option and completely buying into the idea for at least a couple of months. See how it works for you game and then if it is something that looks good, then perhaps look for a second set that will take things on a notch. at this point, i think the Wishon irons are probably about the best bet.